By Riddhi Doshi
Since its inception in 1973, The Golden Dragon, Taj Mahal Palace’s Chinese restaurant, has had many celebrated fans such as MF Husain, Amitabh Bachchan, the royalty of Jodhpur, Ambanis, Birlas, Tatas and Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Saif Ali Khan.
In an attempt to evolve, following the Taj Group’s philosophy of eyes on the future, the restaurant has appointed a new Chef to offer something new and different to its guests. Chef Quing Chang, better known as Chef Jeff, has earlier worked with The Ritz- Carlton Hotel Financial Street, Beijing; The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Beijing and The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel. Jeff, a graduate of the China Academy of Culinary, has introduced modern Szechuan dishes, which are dominated by fermented and pickled chilies, chili oil and pork and chicken. “Jeff’s style of cooking moves away from the use of sauces and gravy, and doesn’t use corn starch,” says Raghu Deora, Executive Sous Chef of The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. “He stir-fries the ingredients to create dishes which are lighter on the palette.”
Some of the dishes on offer are Qinghai Kothe, scallion and water chestnut dim sum, pickled chilli in vinegar sauce and steamed tiger prawns, Hong Kong style chilli black bean sauce, tofu soup with sea vegetables and Yezi Mangguo Dangao, a layered mix of a coconut concoction with mango pieces in a gelatin cake.
Jeff has also brought along a special pepper from China, which numbs your tongue. While the authentic Szechuan dishes use a lot of the spice, Chef Jeff has restricted its use to suit the Indian palette. Similarly, he mixes vegetables, unlike going single, for Indian guests who do not prefer a bitter gourd-only preparation or an asparagus-only dish.
Nevertheless, Chef Jeff thinks that some of the Szechuan dishes might have been influenced by Indian preparations, especially the usage of chillies. “I have observed that Indians like spicy food, there is a great demand for vegetarian food and they like their food served hot. I have tried to tweak my preparations accordingly,” says Jeff, who became a chef to travel the world and learn about different cultures.
Even though Jeff isn’t well-versed in English, he is amongst the most inquisitive chefs at the hotel. “You will see him in different sections interacting with different chefs and learning from them,” says Deora. Isn’t language a barrier? “No, food is a common language,” adds Deora.
Jeff also wants to dabble into molecular gastronomy. Something that might be on offer little later. He is also an expert in plated dishes, which he presented to the dignitaries of China some time ago. But on regular days, the Golden Dragon sticks to family servings and continues to offer its classics such as the red prawns, butter chilli oyster, Peking duck among others.